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Volume 541: debated on Tuesday 28 February 2012

11. What recent reports he has received on the political situation in Somalia; and if he will make a statement. (96700)

At the London conference on Somalia, the international community agreed on the need to inject new momentum into the political process, using the Garowe principles to chart a route to a broad-based constituent assembly, chosen by the Somali people, that will determine a new and representative Government for Somalia.

There is growing concern among British Somalis that the sense of isolation experienced by those who chew the drug khat is being exploited by al-Shabaab to recruit in the UK. Now that the UK is completely out of step with Europe, as the only country not to have banned khat, will the Foreign Secretary raise the matter with the Home Secretary as a matter of urgency?

Khat is certainly quite popular among many Somali people. Indeed, the only other bit of air activity I saw when I visited Mogadishu four weeks ago were planes arriving to deliver khat. However, I will certainly look at the point my hon. Friend raises and discuss it with the Home Secretary, as he suggests.

First, may I congratulate the Foreign Secretary and his team on his work on the Somalia conference? As the final communiqué of the conference says:

“We called on all those willing to reject violence to join the Djibouti peace process.”

How will the Government reach out and engage with those individuals to facilitate the broader base for the Somali Government that is necessary to make progress?

All the decisions that were made and set out in the communiqué at the end of the Somalia conference are to be taken forward by different authorities, and in this case by the authorities in Somalia, through the creation of a new constituent assembly and, then, a more legitimate and representative Parliament. That is a process that is there to be engaged with by people who want to be part of a peace process and want now to transform the position of their country. There will be some who are irreconcilable and wedded to violence, which is why the parallel agreement on expanding the funding of the AMISOM—African Union Mission in Somalia—forces is also important. This process is to be taken forward in Somalia, by Somalis, under the Garowe principles.

May I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend and the whole of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on their remarkable diplomatic and organisational achievement in convening such a widely attended conference? With an estimated 600,000 Somali refugees now living in Kenya, we now have an unusually valuable opportunity to ensure that our overseas aid expenditure goes on resettling them in their own country, before they unsettle Kenya.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his remarks. The conference was well supported by other nations, which were delighted with the outcome. We have received stronger diplomatic support, and a stronger welcome around the world, for this than for any other diplomatic initiative that I can recall in recent years. That in itself is welcome and shows the commitment of the international community to this matter. We do indeed put a great deal of our humanitarian assistance in the direction that my right hon. Friend describes. We are the second-largest bilateral donor to the horn of Africa, for exactly the reason that he described.

Given the Government’s support for the new stability fund, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that in order to retain confidence, humanitarian aid, including that for refugees, should be seen as something quite separate, necessary though it is?

Yes, there are many uses for development funds. Much of this is humanitarian aid delivered through international agencies, and it was of extreme importance during the recent famine in the horn of Africa. Increasingly, we want to be able to provide stabilisation support, and the more stable each area of Somalia becomes, the more we will be able to do that. At the moment, 60% of such funding is going to Somaliland, because that has become a more stable area. So, yes, we make a distinction between different things.